The Maryland men's soccer team is set to play at Kentucky Nov. 30 in the quarterfinals of this year's NCAA Tournament. The Terps are the No. 11 overall seed in the tournament, while the Wildcats are No. 3. Here are five things to know about the Terps as they try to make their way to a fourth NCAA title:
1. Early Struggles
Coming into the season the Terps were unranked for the first time since 2001, and they were expected to be in the middle of the pack in the Big Ten, a difficult change for a usually dominant Maryland squad.
The Terps' early-season performance was indicative of this, as they were unable to score throughout their first four games and did not win consecutive games until late September, when they beat Rutgers and Coastal Carolina.
The Terps' inability to put the ball in the back of the net made it nearly impossible to win games, and while their offense has improved somewhat, the Terps have still struggled at times. They've scored no more than one goal during each loss or tie this season.
The one Terp who was able to find his touch was senior midfielder Amar Sejdic, who struggled early in the season. During the first 13 games of the season, Sejdic scored just twice on 32 shot attempts, but he's scored five goals on 25 shot attempts during the Terps' past seven contest.
2. Tough Schedule
While the Terps' early season struggles can be attributed to a number of factors, a major reason was the Terps' daunting schedule, which ranked as the
second toughest in the country
The Terps went 1-2-2 during their first five games this season, going against Virginia, Stanford, Washington, UCLA and West Virginia, all of which qualified for the NCAA Tournament. The Terps also faced tough competition in conference, facing Michigan State and Indiana during the regular season, as well as in the Big Ten Tournament.
The Terps, now 10-6-4, defeated N.C. State and No. 10 overall seed Duke in the NCAA Tournament to reach the quarterfinals.
3. Surprisingly High Seed
After losing to Indiana in the Big Ten Tournament semifinals on penalty kicks, the Terps waited to see where they would be placed in the NCAA Tournament.
In 2017, the Terps went 10-5-4 and were not given a first-round bye for the first time since 2009. With one more loss than a season ago, this year's team could have had a similar fate.
But to the surprise of many, the Terps were given the No. 11 overall seed in the tournament, a testament to the difficult schedule the Terps had to battle all season long.
4. Veteran Coach
While this season may seem slightly different for the Terps, the one constant that has kept the team steady is the same constant that has kept the program steady during the past 25 years is head coach Sasho Cirovski.
Since coming to Maryland in 1993, Cirovski's has made Maryland one of the top programs in the nation, appearing in the NCAA Tournament 23 times and winning two NCAA championships while in College Park, Md.
Despite this being his team's worst record since 2007, Cirovski's leadership and experience has been and will continue to be key to the Terps' postseason success.
5. Stingy Defense
While Cirovski's leadership on the sidelines is essential for Terps, the team's tenacious defense has been their greatest asset all season and could be the difference as the Terps inch closer to another chance at the NCAA title.
In a season marred by scoring inconstancies, the Terps have had one of their best defensive seasons in recent memory, playing 10 shutouts and not allowing more than two goals in a game all season.
Led by junior Donovan Pines -- a first-team All-Big Ten defender and Clarksville, Md., native -- the Terps' back line has kept its team in close games all season. Goalkeeper Dayne St. Clair has made an impact in the goal box for the Terps as well. Starting every game for Maryland this year, the redshirt junior ranks 18th in the country in save percentage (82.2).
Photo Credit: Courtesy of Maryland Athletics